Four strategies to make it through tough times…and three “must do’s” for 2011…

Diane Connor is a fierce competitor – although you may not realize that when you first meet her.  She’s warm and outgoing and thoughtful – and always willing to lend an ear and share her perspective.  But – she’s also a dedicated and avid runner who competes actively around the region, most recently in the Philadelphia Marathon this last November.

It’s that competitive spirit, that willingness to rise to the challenge and hang in during what proved to be a difficult few years, as well as her emphasis on building and maintaining relationships – that kept her in the “great game of business”.

A partner with her brother Kevin in Modern, their company has been providing marketing strategy and communication design services to a variety of companies and industries for over ten years.

But it was four strategies that specifically contributed to their success in the last couple…

1)      Leveraging diversity – in clientele and services

“We have our hands in many different sectors of businesses,” shares Diane.  “We work with the government, engineering companies and healthcare.  We do fulfillment and packaging.  We design and print – now, looking back, we were able to leverage that diversity to make it through the last few years.” And – going forward – they want to make sure that they maintain that diversity – but in the areas where they can add the most value – the next question that they’ll grapple with….

     2)      Acting quickly – to cut expenses

She and her brother also acted quickly though to cut back and manage their expenses early in the recession.  At the end of ’08, along with other CEO Think Tank® clients, they were counseled to do worst case budgeting and take a hard look at their expenses, including the hours that their employees were working.

“We cut back on people’s hours and took advantage of the fact that our lease was up and we could get a better deal elsewhere….We also took a good hard look at our budget and did several worst case scenarios.”  At the same time Diane acknowledges that they had to work hard to keep morale up.  “We didn’t have a crystal ball, but we knew that we needed to be responsible to the business as well as our employees and that meant some tough decisions as well as trying to remain optimistic and positive.”

3)      Managing relationships – with customers AND vendors

Nurturing the relationships that had held her in good stead, in some cases for twenty years, was Diane’s other strategy.  “We had some nice contracts [going into the recession] but ran into some difficulties with one.  Because we were able to correct the problems our client was having, in large part by working with our suppliers, the client re-upped….Managing relationships throughout the design and delivery process as become even more critical in the last year or two.

4)      Seeking out support and guidance – from other business leaders and advisors

Diane’s business colleagues from her CEO Think Tank® group, and the advice and guidance she got from them, also helped to keep her on track and focused.

CEO Think Tank was critically important during this time.  The feedback and help that I got from the members and just the support that was always there if I needed it…it really helped me in a difficult time.”

So what are her “Must Do’s” for going forward in 2011?  Stay tuned – more on that coming soon!

And – if you’re curious about how membership in CEO Think Tank can help you, give us a call!

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